ALASKA OF MY HEART
NATIVE AMERICANS MET ORTHODOXY
USA OF MY HEART
Saint Jacob Netsvetov of Alaska (+1865)
The evangelizer of the Yup’ik Eskimo & Athabascan peoples of Alaska
Saint Jacob Netsvetov, Enlightener of Alaska, was a native of the Aleutian Islands who became a priest of the Orthodox Church and continued the missionary work of St. Innocent among his and other Alaskan people. His feast day is celebrated on the day of his repose, July 26.
Father Jacob was born in 1802 on Atka Island, part of the Aleutian Island chain in Alaska. His father, Yegor Vasil’evich Netsvetov, was Russian from Tobolsk, Russia, and his mother, Maria Alekscevna, was an Aleut from Atka Island. Jacob was the eldest of four children who survived infancy. The others were Osip (Joseph), Elena, and Antony. Although not well off, Yegor and Maria did all they could to provide for their children and prepare them to live their lives. Osip and Antony were able to study at the St. Petersburg Naval Academy and then were able to become a naval officer and ship builder, respectively. Elena married a respected clerk with the Russian-American Company. Jacob chose a life with the Church and enrolled in the Irkutsk Theological Seminary.
On October 1, 1825, Jacob was tonsured a sub-deacon. He married Anna Simeonovna, a Russian woman perhaps of a Creole background as was he, and then in 1826 he graduated from the seminary with certificates in history and theology. With graduation he was ordained a deacon on October 31, 1826 and assigned to the Holy Trinity-St. Peter Church in Irkutsk. Two years later, Archbishop Michael ordained Jacob to the holy priesthood on March 4, 1828. Archbishop Michael had earlier ordained John Veniaminov (St. Innocent) to the priesthood. With his elevation to the priesthood, Father Jacob began to yearn to return to his native Alaska to preach the Word of God.
Upon departing, Archbishop Michael gave Father Jacob two antimensia, one for use in the new church that Father Jacob planned to build on Atka, and the other for use in Father Jacob’s missionary travels. After a molieben, Father Jacob and his party set off for Alaska on May 1, 1828. The travelers included Father Jacob, Anna his wife, and his father Yegor who had been tonsured reader for the new Atka Church. This journey, which was always hard, took over year to complete, which was completed on June 15, 1829.
Father Jacob’s new parish was a challenge. The Atka “parish” covered most of the islands and land surrounding the Bering Sea: Amchitka, Attu, Copper, Bering, and Kurile Islands. But, he was to meet the challenge as clothed in his Continue reading “Saint Jacob Netsvetov of Alaska (+1865) – The evangelizer of the Yup’ik Eskimo & Athabascan peoples of Alaska”